By DAVE BORODY
The Sarnia Sting has enjoyed a great deal of success so far this season in the Ontario Hockey League.
But there’s one statistic they rank at the bottom of the league.
And that’s their record in shootouts.
The Sting lost their fourth shootout game of the season Thursday night dropping a 4-3 decision to the Barrie Colts in front of 3,271 fans at the RBC Centre.
Sarnia did pick up a point, but they needed a third period comeback to get that.
They trailed 3-1 with just over five minutes remaining before scoring a pair of goals in a span of two minutes to force overtime.
For two and a half periods Barrie was the better team and if not for the goaltending of Brandon Maxwell of the Sting, Sarnia would have come away with no points.
Maxwell turned aside 35 of 38 shots he faced. He made several brilliant saves including stopping a penalty shot in the third period. Maxwell was the game’s first star.
“Maxie was great again for us,” said Sting associated coach, Trevor Letowski. “It goes back to our last game in Saginaw where he was our best player. He’s been great for us all season.”
Maxwell said his team-mates showed some character in the third period.
“We battled back down two goals, but we have to stop doing that. We need to be better in the first and second periods and have a lead going into the third period. We have to stop being a third period team as far as getting behind. We need to get a lead.”
Barrie scored on two of their three shots in the shootout while Nail Yakupov was the only Sting player to score against Colts goalie Mathias Niederberger. (He is a German import).
Letowski says it’s hard to figure out why the Sting is 0-4 this year in shootouts.
“Hopefully the next four shootouts we win,” said the optimistic Letowski. “It’s tough to figure it out. We work on breakaways in practice. I think Yakie is the only guy who has scored in the shootouts. We need some other guys to step up.”
As for the Sting’s performance, Letowski said, “We came out sluggish. They (Barrie) were ready to play. That team has a lot of skill. They have three lines that can hurt you. They skated around us for most of the game. We were fortunate to get a point.”
Letowski added, “Yakie had two goals and one assist and got us the point. We didn’t have enough guys going. There’s no excuse for that.”
Thursday night games have also not been kind to the Sting at the RBC Centre. They have lost two games in regulation time and two games in shootouts.
“It’s always the first game of the weekend and it’s hard to figure it out,” said Letowski. “The bottom line is we have to be better.”
Sarnia scored the only goal of the first period on the power play at 10:44. Yakupov poked a loose puck over the goalie’s shoulder from in front of the net.
Barrie tied the game at 13:26 of period two on a power play goal of their own two when Ivan Telegin banged home a goalmouth pass from Mark Scheifele.
Scheifele put the Colts ahead 2-1 at 17:43 on a shorthanded goal. He was put in the clear and slipped a shot past Maxwell from close range.
The Colts extended their lead to 3-1 four minutes into period three when Telegin got his second of the night on a cross-ice pass from Scheifele.
Sarnia had a great chance at the 10-minute mark while shorthanded as Domenic Alberga was sent in alone, but Niederberger stopped his low shot.
Barrie was awarded a penalty shot at the 12-minute mark, but Maxwell outguessed Telegin as Maxwell made a pad save on a low shot.
“My mindset on the penalty shot is just to stop the puck, keep the game close and hopefully we can get a couple of goals,” said Maxwell.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Yakupov scored his second of the game, and 18th of the season at 15:03 in the power play. He wristed a shot high on the short side from the slot area.
At 16:53 the Sting tied the game when Alex Basso drilled home a high, hard slapshot from the right point. It was his fourth goal of the season.
Sarnia dominated the five-minute overtime period, outshooting Barrie 6-2. Brett Thompson of the Sting had the best chance as he rattled a wrist shot off the post from the slot.
In the shootout, Scheifele and Colin Behenna scored for Barrie and Yakupov for the Sting.
Barrie enjoyed a 36-29 edge in shots on goal overall. Sarnia was two-for-seven on the power play and Barrie one-for-four.
Sarnia’s overall record now stands at 15-4-1-4.
Their next action is Saturday when they host the Niagara Ice Dogs at 7 p.m. Tickets can be obtained by calling the RBC Centre Box Office at 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com
- Maxwell was first star with Scheifele (one goal and two assists) second star and Yakupov (two goals and one assist) third star. Yakupov was back in the lineup after missing one game. Scheifele spent seven games with the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League earlier this season. He scored one goal.
- The Sting held Tanner Pearson, the OHL scoring leader to just one assist. Pearson leads Yakupov by six points.
- Charlie Sarault of the Sting had his 11-game consecutive points scoring streak snapped.
- Brett Ritchie was also back in the Sting lineup after missing three games last weekend. Rookie forward Jack Nevins did not dress for the Sting.
- Ex-Sting Todd Miller is in his second season as an assistant coach with Barrie. The 33-year-old Miller is married with one daughter. Gregg Sutch, a former first round draft pick of the Sting, has four goals and four assists in his first season with the Colts.
- Sarnia’s home record is now 8-2-1-3.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.